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Becoming better acquainted with Fermi


Writing to Roosevelt (Part 2)
Edward Teller Scientist
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The letter went back to Szilárd's pocket and I have secondhand information what then happened. Szilárd did not send the letter to Roosevelt and indeed, had he done so, probably the letter would have been stuck on the desk of one of the secretaries. Instead, Szilárd gave the letter to a friend, a banker, who knew the President well. His name was Sachs. And how this happened, I don't know, it happened and it's important. Sachs at the time did not give the letter to Roosevelt, probably he could not get to him, until a few weeks between the beginning of August and the second half of October. And that was a fortunate time, because at that time Poland had been occupied by the joint effort of the Nazis and the Soviets. And by that time, Roosevelt was really and completely aware of the worldwide danger. So he promptly called Briggs - Doctor Briggs - the Head of the Bureau of Standards- Call a conference and make a decision, recommend a decision. Szilárd was invited, Wigner was invited, I also was invited but my main function was something else. I was to get Fermi to come to a conference and I did.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 2 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008